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Professor praises SAT shortening exams to give students more time: Not ‘applying to join a bomb squad’

A college professor hailed news the SATs would be shortened to give students more time as a “game-changer” that would benefit most students.

“For decades, educators have seen speed as a marker of aptitude or mastery, forcing students to scramble to finish tests. But a race against the clock doesn’t measure knowledge or intelligence. It assesses the much narrower skill of how well students reason under stress. As a result, timed tests underestimate the capabilities of countless students,” Dr. Adam Grant wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

In 2022, the College Board, which develops and administers the college readiness exams, announced it would shorten the test from three hours to two and allow exam-takers to use a calculator on all the math sections, beginning next year.

Grant, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, argued this is a good thing because time pressure rewards students for rushing instead of working at a more deliberate, careful pace.

He argued this skill isn’t useful in the real world, where some professions require methodical attention to detail.

“You wouldn’t want a surgeon who rushes through a craniectomy, or an accountant who dashes through your taxes,” he wrote.

There’s no evidence that being able to do algebra quickly will help prepare students for the real world, even in jobs that depend on speed, he argued.

“Although it pays to be quick, it also pays to be determined, disciplined and dependable. Strangely, though, the tests that define students’ grades and help determine their educational and professional fates are rarely designed for deliberation. They evaluate students as if they’re applying to join a bomb squad or appear on ‘Jeopardy,’” Grant wrote. “Time pressure rewards students who think fast and shallow — and punishes those who think slow and deep.”

The professor pointed to studies that purport to show more time can shrink the gender gap seen in some math tests, and improve the performance of groups with learning and reading difficulties.

Some parents have tried to take advantage of the extended time given to students with disabilities by faking learning difficulties to “game the system.” Instead, every student should be given this opportunity, he argued.

“This madness has to end. If a significant portion of the students run out of time, it means the test is too long or the time period is too short,” Grant insisted.

The professor said he suspects the new rules will be a “game-changer” in education.

Students should show more confidence and less anxiety around taking tests, and have “a more realistic preview of what it takes to excel in the future,” he argued.

The professor said he suspects the new rules will be a “game-changer” in education.

“In school, timed tests teach kids that success is a sprint. But in life, success is a marathon. Wisdom is less about the speed of thought than the complexity of thinking. The students with the greatest potential aren’t always the ones who can rapidly spit out the right answers. They’re often the ones who take the time to ask the right questions,” he concluded.

As the College Board conducted research on whether giving students more time would change test completion rates, they came up with staggering results.

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“On average, 97 percent of students complete all questions in a section with up to seven minutes to spare on each section,” Chief Executive Officer David Coleman said of the new tests to the Times. “It’s time we stop confusing quick with smart,” he said.

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